Men in red

If you are a golf fan you will know that Tiger Woods wears a red shirt for the final round of “major” championships. There are also reports over the years that sporting teams who wear red have more success. Could a simple thing such as colour really influence complex events like sports outcomes? According to a new study there is certainly an interesting aspect to the choice of red when competing.

For the study men were told that they were to perform a competitive task and that their results would be placed on a leader board. The subjects were then given the choice of whether to use a red or blue symbol to represent them. After completing the tasks the men also answered questionnaires aimed at establishing any personal reasons why they may have chosen the colour token they did. Saliva samples had been taken at the start of the study before the men knew a competition would be involved and then again at the end of the study. These samples were used to establish the men’s testosterone levels.

Analysis of the data collected showed that men who chose red had higher baseline testosterone levels and they also were more likely to believe that their colour showed characteristics like dominance and aggression. Interestingly though, colour choice did not seem to relate to actual performance. Both of these findings fit well with what we already know about men who wear red.

In a study from the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General in 2010, it was found that simply wearing the colour red makes a man more attractive and sexually desirable to women, although women are unaware of this arousing effect. The researchers found that women view men in red as higher in status, more likely to make money and more likely to climb the social ladder. All of these are qualities that could go with higher testosterone levels.

In a 2005 study published in the journal Nature British researchers studied the outcomes of one-on-one boxing, tae kwon do, Greco-Roman-wresting, and freestyle-wrestling matches at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. In each event Olympic staff randomly assigned red or blue clothing or body protection to competitors. When the competitors were clearly of different skill levels, the colour of their outfit made no difference to the result. However, in equally matched bouts, the preponderance of red wins was great enough that it could not be attributed to chance. Similarly, a review of the colours worn at the football (soccer) Euro 2004 international soccer tournament showed the same thing.

In this study the men with high testosterone levels did not necessarily do better which fits with the idea that colour won’t influence outcomes unless skill levels are close in any case. What might happen though is that the testosterone edge reflected by the choice of red may tip the scales when opponents are closely matched.

In the end then, a man with higher testosterone and the aggression and urge for dominance that go with it, may just be a bit more red-y to play.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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